Last updated on May 22nd, 2021 at 04:40 pm
“There is one thing that almost everybody in America agrees about. Liberals and conservatives, rich and poor, atheists and theists, labor and management, women and men, gay and straight, prolife and prochoice, capitalists and socialists—just about everybody with a nose agrees that our culture is in what one president called ‘deep doo-doo.’” (9) So begins Peter Kreeft, Boston College theologian and professor (and the man whose writings helped bring me back to the Church), in his book How to Win the Culture War—A Christian Battle Plan for a Society in Crisis. In this short tome, Professor Kreeft lays out a winning battle plan to save Western culture and civilization from the forces trying to destroy them by focusing on the nine things you need to know to win this, or indeed any, war:
- That you are at war;
- Who your enemy is;
- What kind of war you are in;
- What the basic principle of this kind of war is;
- What the enemy’s strategy is;
- Where the main battlefield is;
- What weapon will defeat the enemy;
- How to acquire this weapon; and
- Why you will win.
The first thing you must do if you are to have any chance of winning a war is to know that you are in fact at war. To doubt that we are in the midst of a serious culture war is to deny reality. Kreeft writes: “If you are surprised to be told that our entire civilization is in crisis, I welcome you back to earth and hope you had a nice vacation on the moon.” (13) Indeed, America and the West are succumbing to a culture of death. In America, one in three pregnancies ends in abortion, half of all marriages die through divorce, and the teen suicide rate has increased by over 5,000 percent during the past 60 years; and these statistics are just the tip of the culturally decaying iceberg. Significantly, Kreeft reminds us of the real stakes in this war: “I don’t mean merely that Western civilization will die. That’s a piece of trivia. I mean that eternal souls will die. Ramons and Vladimirs and Tiffanies and Bridgets will miss out on heaven. That’s what’s at stake in this war: not just whether America will become a banana republic or whether we’ll forget Shakespeare or even whether some nuclear terrorist will incinerate half of humanity, but whether our children and our children’s children will see God forever. That’s why we must wake up and smell the corpses, the rotting souls, the dying children.” (22)
The second thing you need to know in order to win a war is the identity of your enemy. In our current culture war, Kreeft says we are fighting two enemies, both of whom our secular elites and even many Christians scoff at and say don’t exist. The first enemy is demons, evil spirits, fallen angels. “Our secular culture claims that anyone who believes this is at best an uneducated, narrow-minded bigot and at worst mentally deranged. Therefore, by this standard, Jesus Christ must have been one of the greatest bigots and madmen ever. For he taught it clearly, strongly, repeatedly, and assiduously.” (28) Likewise the apostles unambiguously taught this doctrine. As Saint Paul writes in the Letter to the Ephesians: “Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (29) The second enemy, Kreeft writes, “is even more horrible than the first. There is one nightmare even more terrible than being chased by the devil, even being caught by the devil, even being tortured by the devil. That is the nightmare of becoming a devil. The horror outside your soul is terrible enough, but it is not as terrible as the horror inside your soul.” (30) And what is that horror in our souls? Sin, which is a rebellion against God, acting as Satan did. “Sin is another word that, if any dares to speak it today, elicits only embarrassment from Christians and condemnation from the secularist, who condemns only condemnations, judges only judgmentalism and believes the only sin is believing in sin.” (30)
The third thing one must know to have any chance of winning a war is the kind of war you are in. Since our enemies are Satan and sin, Kreeft writes that we are naturally in a spiritual war.
The basic principle underlying the war at hand is the fourth thing you need to know to win it. Kreeft writes that the dominant principle of our current culture war is “Colson’s Law,” named after the noted Christian and founder of Prison Fellowship, Chuck Colson. In brief, the law posits that “a community’s longevity is proportionate to its morality.” (51) According to this law, there is a constant battle in society between the opposites of community (or the good), and chaos (or the bad). Community can stave off chaos through the use of two forces: the strong consciences/morality of its people (the internal force) and the use of the police (the external force). Colson’s law states that as the consciences of a people decline, a society has two options: use more police to keep order (which ultimately leads to totalitarianism) or end up in chaos (which is what we are increasingly experiencing now in America). The decline of religion in the West is particularly concerning as religion is the foundation for conscience/morality. Kreeft writes: “[N]o society has yet existed that has successfully built its knowledge of morality on any basis other than religion. In theory, the natural moral law can be known by natural human reason alone without knowing the supernaturally revealed divine law, but in practice this is very rare; there has never been a whole society of Platos and Aristotles. It is a massive and obvious fact of history that religion has always been the primary source of mankind’s knowledge of morality. This fact is so obvious that no age ever ignored it except this one.” (52)
And who has been waging war against morality and religion in our society? The elites in the media, academia, and Hollywood. “[T]he main source of the murder of morality is our moralists, our mind molders, our educators, both formal (in schools and universities) and information (the media). And they in turn have been trained by our prophets and high priests, our psychologists and sociologists, who are the most irreligious and relativistic segment in our society.” (53)
The fifth thing you need to do to have any chance of winning a war is to know your enemy’s battle plan. In the style of C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters, Kreeft writes that he has come into possession of a speech by Satan that lays out his five-part strategy to destroy our culture. The first part of the plan was put into effect at the beginning of the second millennium. After seeing how persecuting the Church in the first millennium actually led to its ranks exponentially growing, Satan decided to leave the Church alone so it could destroy itself. Satan writes: “Once we stopped indulging our appetite for martyr’s blood and instead deliberately let the Church get big and fat and comfortable and successful, we found that its very strength became its weakness. We lost the first millennium because the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church, but we won the second millennium because the power of the princes was the dryrot of the Church.” (63) Ironically, once being a Christian cost less, people began to not pay the smaller price. “Look at America,” Satan muses. “Ninety percent Christian, 50 percent churchgoers and one of the most selfish, self-indulgent and violent societies on earth… Our pleasure in contemplating this success is more subtle than our orgies of enjoyment of martyrs’ pains, but it is more lasting and profitable in the long run.” (64)
The second part of Satan’s plan is to conquer the Church by dividing it, first in 1054 between East and West and then in 1517 within the West between Catholics and Protestants. Satan has now introduced a third division in Christianity between the faithful and the dissenters (known as “heretics” in former days), who are trying to destroy Christianity from within.
The third part of Satan’s plan to destroy our culture is to get people to believe the “Big Lie” — moral relativism. Satan writes: “This was the philosophy behind my original glorious rebellion against the Enemy [God], when I refused to let him define reality or truth or goodness for me. I am who I am; I am the measure of all things—of what is real, of what is true and what is good; of the origin, of the meaning and of the end; of the creation of being, of the design of being, and of the appreciation of being; of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (68) Once people refuse to believe in objective truth, morality falls away and society begins to fray as there are no commonly held norms binding people together.
The fourth part of Satan’s battle plan is to get people to not believe they are in a culture war. “This easily follows from the success of the third principle: the Big Lie of relativism,” Satan states. “If your philosophy tells you there are no real absolutes, then there can be no real war. If you reject the idea that there is any real evil worth fighting, and any real good worth fighting for, you reject the idea of fighting, the idea of spiritual warfare itself.” (73)
Finally, the fifth part of the enemy’s plan is called “Satan’s Spectacularly Successful Seven-Step Sexual Strategy.” In brief, Satan is using the sexual revolution to destroy sexual fidelity, which then destroys marriage, which then destroys the family, and which then destroys society. Satan writes: “The simple tactic of getting to their hearts through their hormones has proved incredibly easy. In fact, that’s been the main reason they’ve embraced the Big Lie, denying objective truth. They don’t deny objective truth when it comes to sticks and stones, only when it comes to morality. And even in morality, they don’t deny objective truth about good and evil when it comes to anything else but sex. They don’t defend rape or pillage or slavery or oppression or theft or nuclear war or embezzlement or racism—or even smoking! But they defend divorce and fornication and masturbation and contraception and abortion and sodomy and bestiality and bisexuality and cross-dressing. ‘Anything goes’ is their morality if and only if it has anything to do with sex.” (75)
The location of the fiercest battlefield is the sixth thing you need to know to win a war. In our current cultural crisis, sex is the crucial battlefield. As Kreeft writes: “[W]e cannot win the culture war unless we win the sex war, because sex is the effective religion of our culture, and religion is the strongest force in the world, the strongest motivation there is.” (95) Indeed, as noted above, the sexual revolution is the prime driver of moral relativism and the area of our greatest cultural battles, such as those over abortion, gay marriage, transgendersism, and the like. We should not be surprised that sex is the main battlefield today, Kreeft states, “because sex is unique. It is holy. It is the only door by which God himself regularly enters our world to do the miraculous deed he alone can do: creating new images of himself. Sex images God because it makes new images of God.” (95) Sex is also powerful because it gives us a “foretaste of heaven, of our self-forgetful, self-transcending self-giving that is what our deepest hearts are designed for, long for and will not be satisfied until they have, because we are made in God’s own image and this self-giving constitutes the inner life of the Trinity.” (95)
The seventh, and most crucial thing, you need to know to win a war is the weapon that will defeat the enemy. And what will win the culture war we are in now? In a word, saints. As Kreeft writes: “The strongest weapon in the world is sanctity. Nothing can defeat it… Only saints can save the world.” (100, 102) Significantly, sanctity is contagious: “When we see a saint, we know the purpose of our lives. Saints reproduce themselves simply by being who they are.” (104) Kreeft then dispels a common notion about saints: “Perhaps the popular conception of saints is ‘nice,’ but real saints are not nice. They are warriors. They really bother people, so deeply that they are often martyred. If they don’t bother anybody, they are not saints.” (101) And why do saints generate such opposition? Kreeft states: “They are embroiled in controversy, necessarily, always. This is because saints are as devoted to truth as they are to love; they will not be false prophets who give the people what they want instead of what they need.” (102) Kreeft writes that the main reason America and the West are losing the culture war is because we do not have enough saints among us. He then clarifies: “No, that is not quite right. The reason is that we are not saints.” (102) But we can become saints if we really want to: “You can become a saint. Absolutely no one and nothing can stop you, It’s your totally free choice.” (102-03) But why aren’t we saints then? Because we are afraid of paying the price. And what is that price? Everything you have. Kreeft writes: “Give Christ one hundred percent of your heart and your life one hundred percent of the time, holding nothing back, absolutely nothing at all, anywhere, ever. This means martyrdom — and for most of us, a more extended and difficult martyrdom than that of the noose or execution block. It means the martyrdom of dying daily, dying every minute for as long as you live, dying to all your desires and plans, including your pet plans about how to become a saint.” (103) Christ clearly told us this was the price of being a saint, a price we must pay if we are to be His disciples. When asked what is the greatest commandment, Christ answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So simple, but so costly.
How to acquire the weapon that will win the war is the eighth thing we need to know. In our current culture war, we will acquire the weapon of sainthood by stepping up and paying the price — giving everything of ourselves to God. It is about “giving God a blank check and letting him fill in the amount. It means ‘islam,’ complete submission, surrender, fiat — Mary’s thing,” Kreeft writes. (104) But how do we surrender?By just doing it. Not by thinking about being a saint, or wanting to be saint, or promising to be a saint. Just doing it is key. And what is one of the most important things saints will do? They will “go into the gutters, as Mother Theresa did. Even though we do not all go into the gutters, as she did, yet we must all go into the spiritual gutters, for that is where the need is, that is where the spiritually are dying.” (27)
Finally, the last thing you need to know to win a war is why you will win. Kreeft gives three reasons why we will win the culture war. First, “because truth is stronger than falsehood, light is stronger than darkness.” (118) Second, “because love is stronger than hate, and we fight because we love God and man and nature and children and femininity and masculinity and sexuality and the body and the soul and life and love and truth, while the enemy does not.” (118) Finally, we will win “because Jesus is Lord, Christ is King.” (119) Because of these three reasons, we need to be hopeful and not despair even when things look bleak.
In How to Win the Culture War, author Peter Kreeft gives us a battleplan that will allow us to overcome the forces of darkness currently holding the commanding heights of our culture. While it will not be an easy victory, the secret weapon of saints will allow us to triumph. As Kreeft concludes his tome: “We will win the war because no matter how many times we fall down, no matter how many times we fail at being saints, no matter how many times we fail at love, we will never, never, never give up. We will win because we are the body of Christ, and Christ is God, and God is love, and love never, never, never gives up.” (120)